Flyhalf Otere Black slotted a late penalty to earn the Blues a 23-21 win at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Not only did the three-tries-to-two victory by the New Zealand franchise leave the home team rooted at the bottom of the standings and still winless this season.
Their consolation is a losing bonus point, their first points of the season.
The constant drizzle during the game – which strengthened as the game wore on – certainly did not help either side, although the Blues seemed more capable of playing a free-flowing game in the testing conditions.
The game also produced a number of contentious refereeing rulings – with Bulls lock Andries Ferreira yellow-carded for taking a player in the air at a line-out, when he attempted to sack a potential maul, and the home team captain Burger Odendaal sent to the sin bin for a high tackle when the Blues player had bent over almost double as the centre charged at him – offering only his head as a target.
The opening score in the pouring rain came after seven minutes – a Morné Steyn penalty, following a scrum penalty near the Blues’ 10-metre line.
On the 15-minutes mark, Steyn made it 6-0 with his second penalty, coming after the Blues were caught offside.
Having spurned a kickable penalty earlier – and having had a long-range miss – Otere Black opened his team’s account in the 17th minute.
The Bulls were then reduced to 13 men, when first lock Andries Ferreira (taking a player out in the air) and then skipper Burger Odendaal (high tackle) was sent to the sin bin for foul play offences.
Just after Ferreira returned to the field of play, the Blues were able to exploit their numerical advantage in the backline – Mark Telea working his way over on the left wing, a try that required several reviews by the TMO.
Right on the half-time hooter Blues scrumhalf Jonathan Ruru was yellow carded for cynically killing the ball after a line-break. The Bulls opted for a scrum, won a penalty and opted for another scrum. From this, the Bulls moved the ball to the left where flyhalf Morné Steyn flopped over for the Bulls’ first try of the season.
The flyhalf couldn’t convert, but he had gifted his team an 11-8 lead at the break.
Steyn opened the scoring with a penalty from point-blank range four minutes into the second half – Jeandré Rudolph winning the turnover at a tackle.
The Blues hit straight back when a poor clearance kick was run back, with Emoni Narawa going for what he thought to be a try. However, it was denied because of an earlier forward pass.
The try did eventually come for the visitors, Tom Robinson driving over from close range after a period of sustained phase-play pressure. Black’s conversion made it 15-14 with just over 20 minutes remaining.
That lead stretched to 20-14 when fullback Stephen Perofeta went over in the right corner – a perfectly-weighted cross-field lick by Black, collected by replacement Matt Duffie, who offloaded to Perofeta.
With just over 10 minutes remaining the Blues were reduced to 14 men – No.8 Hoskins Sotutu sent to the sin bi for a dangerous tackle.
They opted for a scrum, won a penalty and opted for another scrum. They made their one-man set-piece advantage count and from a powerful shove forward flank Jeandré Rudolph worked his way over. Steyn’s conversion gave the Bulls a one-point (21-20) lead.
With time running out the Bulls coughed up the ball and the Blues worked their way upfield, eventually catching the Bulls defence offside. Black made no mistake with the penalty – earning his team a win after the full-time hooter had already sounded.
For the Bulls:
Tries: Steyn, Rudolph
Pens: Steyn 3
For the Blues:
Tries: Telea, Robinson, Perofeta
Pens: Black 2
Yellow card: Andries Ferreira (Bulls, 20 – foul play, taking a player out in the air), Burger Odendaal (Bulls, 25 – foul play, high tackle), Jonathan Ruru (Blues, 40 – cynical foul, off his feet at ruck after line break), Hoskins Sotutu (Blues, 69 – foul play, dangerous tackle)
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger
Odendaal (captain), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8
Josh Strauss, 7 Wian Vosloo, 6 Jeandré Rudolph, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4
Andries Ferreira, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Emoni
Narawa, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Otere
Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Tony Lamborn, 6 Tom
Robinson, 5 Jacob Pierce, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Sione
Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Ezekiel Lindenmuth, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Aaron Carroll, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Thomas Faiane, 23 Matt Duffie.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa), Divan Uys (South Africa)
TMO: Joey Klaaste-Salmans (South Africa)